[Hpn] Shelter need land to obtain $800.000.00 grant nfor housing

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Thu, 1 Jul 2004 07:22:56 -0400


For want of an acre, shelter's effort to provide family housing may falter

Thursday, July 1, 2004

By DENNIS HOEY, Portland Press Herald Writer

BRUNSWICK - The Tedford Shelter, which provides housing for homeless
individuals and families in midcoast Maine, is in need of land. Faced with
the loss of nearly $800,000 in federal Housing and Urban Development grant
money, Tedford Shelter has until Dec. 19 to secure a piece of land that
could be developed for six permanent family apartments, or lose the grant.
Shelter officials would prefer the land be donated or sold at a reduced
price because none of the grant money was designated for land acquisition.
Officials say the project could go a long way toward providing affordable
housing and easing homelessness in the Bath-Brunswick region.
"Homelessness in this area is a pretty severe problem because affordable
housing is just not available," said Jim Martin, president of the Tedford
Shelter's board of directors. "Our shelters are full most of the time."
During a retreat held about a year ago, Tedford's directors reached the
conclusion that more drastic measures had to be taken to address the
homeless issue.
"As important as the shelters are, they are really a Band-Aid," Executive
Director Don Kniseley said.
Kniseley said a lot of Tedford's clients were identified as being
chronically homeless, meaning they would stay for a period of time at the
shelter, move on, and then would return. Directors decided to change their
mission to support a longer term solution.
In 2003, the shelter had to turn away 135 families and 516 single adults. It
operates a facility that can house up to 17 single adults on Cumberland
Street and up to six families at its shelter on Federal Street.
Martin said it is difficult to say how many homeless people are living in
the Bath/Brunswick area, but he said both shelters are typically full
throughout the year.
According to figures compiled by the Maine State Housing Authority, Tedford
Shelter served 711 homeless individuals in 2003. That figure was down from
2002, when the shelter provided services to 809 people.
Tedford Shelter, in partnership with the Brunswick Housing Authority and
Sweetser, decided to develop a project that would offer permanent housing to
homeless families. Supported housing means that trained staff or caseworkers
would be present for about 16 hours a day, providing support and expertise
to families struggling to get back on their feet. Unlike its other
properties, there would be no time limit on how long a family could stay.
Last December the agencies received a $767,449 federal grant to develop six
family apartments on Perryman Drive near Cook's Corner.
But the land in Brunswick, which would have been donated by the Brunswick
Housing Authority, proved to be inadequate, mostly because of its size of
under a half acre. Tedford has tried unsuccessfully to acquire an adjacent
lot that would give the project the amount of land it needs.
More than 3,000 letters were recently mailed, asking for a donation of a
building lot totalling about one acre. The call has gone unanswered.
Brunswick Community Housing Coalition has been studying the issue of
affordable housing. One member, Realtor Jane Millett, said one- to
three-acre building lots in Brunswick that are not on the water are
currently selling for more than $100,000, depending on how the lot is zoned
and where it is located. Millett believes the organization will be
challenged to find someone willing to donate an acre in today's hot real
estate market.
Millett encourages the organization to consider buying a larger lot than it
needs and selling the excess, or expanding an existing apartment building.
It might also want to approach a developer who would be willing to donate a
parcel from a proposed subdivision.
Tedford Shelter would prefer a residential lot located within reasonable
walking distance of a grocery store and public transportation, and linked to
public sewer and water.
Tedford officials say they would consider land in Topsham, Bath or Freeport
as well as Brunswick.
"The clock is ticking. We need to have control of a site by Dec. 19,"
Kniseley said.
Susan Wygal of Topsham, another member of Tedford's board, encouraged the
public to make suggestions.
"We could lose the HUD money," said Wygal. "It would be a great shame
because affordable housing is sorely needed."
For more information about Tedford's project or to discuss a donation of
land, contact Kniseley at 729-1161.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 725-8795 or at:
dhoey@pressherald.com



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